Happily Ever After, 2


“Fifteen years in the making. Let me turn up the light just a bit.”

The scene reminds me of snorkeling in the Florida Keys and Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay. I’m in awe and I wonder. How much effort went in to its creation? And, why?

             “It’s a passion,” Colt says as if reading my mind. “I’ve always loved the ocean, and the more time I spent diving, the deeper in love I fell.”

             “Who takes care of it?”

             “I do. It’s part of its charm.

             I look puzzled, I’m sure, as I think about the ten-gallon freshwater fish tank I had to give up because I couldn’t keep it clean.

“For me, anyway,” he says.

I feel Colt’s eyes fixed on me as mine are fixed on the world beyond the glass. “He’s here,” I think to myself. “It’s like we haven’t missed a beat.” The sound of the door opening at the end of the hall interrupts my thoughts, and I hear him ask, “Will you join me?”

             I’m drawn to both, this world he’s created and to him. I move away from the sea and toward the man.

             When I enter the study, I’m alone. It’s spacious with a comfortable feel. Recessed lights glow onto the overstuffed chairs in front of the fireplace. Old books and original artwork adorn book shelves. A simple desk on the far side of the room sits framed by a large paned window. I walk over to the desk and run my fingers along its edge. It’s only features are its four simple turn carved legs and a plain drawer that rests discretely at its center.

             “I bought that at auction years ago.” I hear Colt say. “It’s from Amherst. Early 1800s. I wonder if Emily Dickinson ever sat there.

             I look up and he’s holding a bottle of wine and two antique-gold rimmed wine glasses. It’s as if I’m watching my life play out on a big screen. He pours us some wine and raises his glass for a toast.

             “To old friends.”

             “To old friends.”

“How are you, Liv? How’s life been treating you? Tell me. Did you remarry? You have a son, right?”

             “Yes, one son. And a grandson now.”

             “No! We’re not that old. Are we?”

             We both laugh.

             “Yes. Afraid so.” Now I know I’m beaming. My family is such joy. I pause. “And, let’s just say, I’m married and it is not working out.” I don’t want to ruin our time together. He gets it, and I continue. “What about you? I heard you got married.”

             “No!” he says immediately, and with a tone of surprise. “I never married! Where’d you hear that?”

             “I heard you got engaged a few months after we stopped dating and then heard you married a year later.”

He laughs. “I was engaged briefly. But for some reason marriage was never attractive to me. The rumor mill. Don’t believe everything you hear.” He says, finding humor in the mill. “I’ve had two long-term relationships and remained friends with both. But, No, I never married.”

             My mind and my heart feel like the twenty-five-year-old I was when I last saw him. I’m excited. I feel impulsive. I see the young man in him also.

We get comfortable in the chairs in front of the fireplace. He’s soon kicking off his shoes and throwing his feet on to the ottoman closest to the fire. I’m not surprised at all about how successful he is. I’m not surprised that he’s still as handsome. But, what’s bringing this big smile to my face is how comfortable we remain with each other. He’s still the young man I remember even with all the trappings that come with success.

             We talk about our past, our goals, family, life and its challenges. I’m the one asking most of the questions. One, because I’m interested and enjoy hearing all he has to say. But also because my own life has been hell for years, and unless I go back more than a decade, I have don’t have anything I wish to share. I hang on his every word.

             “Remember prom night?” he asks. “I recently came across some pictures I took that night of all of us at the beach. You wore a white dress. Who was the guy you were with? Was he from town?"

             “I didn’t know anyone took pictures that night. I certainly don’t remember you having a camera.”

“You never know,” he says sheepishly.

I remember my senior prom as merely a night out attending only because I didn’t want to feel left out. I would have just as soon stayed home. The most moving moment and memory I have of that evening is all of us standing at the ocean after prom. For a long moment Colt’s eyes met mine and in an instant I felt an incredible connection with him. It was more than attraction, but I couldn’t put words to what I was feeling back then. I’ve since found a word. Kismet.

             “No. He was from Westford,” I replied about my date.

             "I’ll find those photos and show you next time," he says.

             “Next time,” I think to myself. “There’ll be a next time.” I smile.

             He pours us more wine and tells me about his projects restoring period homes to their original grandeur. His most recent restoration in Virginia. “It’s fascinating. Each is a study of history.” He says with a fervor about him I find rare in people. “You have to know when the house was built. What features would have been incorporated into the home. Most of the homes have been redone so many times they look nothing like they did when they were first built. You’d love it. It’s really something to see a piece of history come back to life.” There is such satisfaction in his voice.

             He tells me he has three large warehouses, one each in Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania that contain reclaimed wood and period pieces saved from homes being demolished. Entire staircases, two stories high have their banisters intact. Stained glass windows, lead glass cabinetry, moldings, fireplaces and more all removed meticulously so that he can reuse them. “Some of the fireplaces and staircases have hidden compartments used to hide arms during the civil war period or liquor during prohibition. Homes also had fake walls where people could hide,” he tells me. “

             “My dream is to go to Europe someday and restore a chateau in France or a villa in Spain.”

             We are in our own little bubble and lose all track of time until the intercom sounds, and a voice on the other end announces that guests are starting to leave.

             “Would you excuse me? I shouldn’t be long. Would you like to wait here?”

             I nod yes, and he steps into the hallway where the tile lights beneath his feet and I get another glimpse of the ocean wall.

             “Make yourself at home,” he says as he closes the door.

             Fascinating how I can get lost in conversation and totally overlook how incredibly attractive he still is. George Clooney with a mix of James Brolin, I’d say. His dark brown hair now salt and peppered, still full, with a cut that’s tailored today as opposed to the long hair and sideburns he once sported. His build is more muscular than it was in his twenties a fact that was not lost on me at our first embrace. I had remembered him as taller, but his height is just right seeing as I wear only flats now. How many women must be knocking at his door, figuratively and literally?

             I get up from my chair and make my way around the room. The books on the shelves include architecture, restoration, history and autobiographies. Some are first editions. The artwork is dispersed among the books and are original pieces signed by local artists. There are artifacts with notes attached: A Harris & Shafer sterling bowl dating back one hundred and fifty years; a carved wooden hand with a heart on its palm with a note, “Odd Fellows. 1880s. Folk art.”; a carving set is stamped Paul Revere Sterling; an early American powder horn and a Native American club found at the same location in upstate New York; a Native American medicine pouch, a tribal drum and moccasins. I wonder if they’ve come from homes he’s restored.

             An elaborate jade floral arrangement—each flower and stem carved from different color jade—sits atop a slim, antique marble-topped pedestal in the corner of the room. I recognize the arrangement as a symbol of prosperity, wealth, luck and friendship. How fortuitous.

             Every item in the room speaks to me. The energy in the room is ethereal.

             Between the bookshelves is a doorway that opens to a spa area. The off-white tiled floor has an inlaid, blue spiral pattern that extends to the far side of the room where a pedestal tub sits as the centerpiece. In the left corner is a shower tiled with a decorative Mediterranean, hand-painted mural. Adjacent to the shower is a steam room. A small room to the right provides privacy for an old-fashioned pull chain commode with bidet. The thought and detail for this space is incredible.

                 A second door leads from the bath to the master bedroom. Fit for a king. I walk over and open the French doors to the patio, then take a moment to sit on the edge of the bed and look across the terrace. A section of the aquarium is viewable from the outside. 

             “Here is the man I remember,” I think to myself. Full of character and authenticity.

             A rush of emotion wells up in me. There are so many thoughts and sensations running through my mind and heart that I cannot decipher between them. My breathing is becoming shallow and rapid as my anxiety builds. As I search for a reason I assume I’ve become so numb and so detached from any real emotion that all I’m feeling right now is overwhelming me.

I need to leave. I get up, close the patio doors, and walk out of the master bedroom to the study. For a moment I pause and reconsider. Should I stay? No. I need to go. I step into the hallway and a soft glow instantly lights the space at my feet. I pause again to take a breath and regain my composure. Gazing into the ocean in front of me calms me.